He’s a mason. He builds and mends for a living. Each day he carefully measures and lays down the mortar and bricks required to build walls, windows, roofs, courtyards; a home, a school, or a prayer hall. He’s the man when you need someone to mend the cracks, collapsed walls of your buildings, and even if all you want is too add that something to your structure. He binds, shapes, smoothens all kinds of undulations and brings uniformity and congruity to the buildings in the village.
Every evening at five, he walks across the fields pregnant with golden wheat, to his home at the other end of the village. The tiredness of the day weighs heavy on his brow and his feet drag with the exertions of the day. Beads of sweat make runnels down his aching, weather-beaten back.
But nothing beats the ache that erupts every single evening when he stands before the gates to his home.
The wide gate is painted in two contrasting colors, each side depicting the personal tastes of the owners of their side of the gate. The humble six room house is now divided into two quarters of three rooms each. The huge open kitchen is now divided into two smaller ones, where two different sets of chulhas (stoves) churn out two different kinds of meals. The large, inviting courtyard is now divided into two where every festival – Diwali, Holi, Teej, Rakshbandhan, are all celebrated, in two different corners, in hushed, subdued tones. There are no exchanges now, not of love, not of happiness, not of anything at all. Two families were rent apart by stupid squabbles, and a bit of stamped legal paper… all for a piece of land, partitioned too, that eventually was sold off by both sides. Together the land was large, the labor, plenty. Alone, it became a liability.
Each evening he sees his niece of four playing in the courtyard. She jumps up in glee when she sees him. She makes a dash to him when he smiles at her, but she stops short of that invisible line that divides this living space into ‘his’ and ‘theirs’. Even she knows.
She scurries back to her spot. He shuffles into his rooms, as unsettled in his heart as the first night of the partition.
He’s a mason. He builds and mends. But who’ll mend this broken house?
Copyright ©2017 Pradita Kapahi.
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